Posts Tagged ‘chiswick’

I live a matter of a few hundred yards from the major trunk road in question, so when I spotted this in a shop in Kew last week, I had to have it.


It’s a print commemorating the opening of the Great West Road in 1925 by George V and Queen Mary (who’d be a monarch, eh?). Made of tissue and folded like a paper napkin, it would have been dished out to the local crowds, or perhaps sold for a penny or two. It’s in really good condition, a remarkable survival.

The text badly spills over into the border decoration. This tells us, I think, that the souvenir printers made large stocks of coloured templates and then customised them for different occasions by overprinting text etc in black.

“The new Great West Road which has just been completed at a cost of £1,000,000 , will be opened by the King, accompanied by the Queen to-day. 

This new arterial road, which is eight miles in length, has for the greater part a width of 120ft. It extends from the Chiswick High-road near Kew Bridge, by-passes Brentford and enables traffic to avoid the congestion bottle-neck in the town.

The road continues through Isleworth and meets the main road again at the Bath Road, just beyond the Hounslow Barracks Station, then crosses the main road and passing through Hatton Village, joins the main Staines Road at Bedfont.” 

The building of the Great West Road was essential. Historically, the route to Bath and the west ran through Brentford. There was bad enough congestion during the days of horse-drawn vehicles, but once cars, buses, lorries and especially trams hit the streets, the narrow high street became all but impassable.

It didn’t take long for large businesses to realise the potential that the new thoroughfare offered. Beautiful industrial art deco buildings sprang up, giving us Brentford’s “Golden Mile”.

LH Member James Marshall wrote a book about this back in 1995. It’s out-of-print now, so available copies are very pricy. They are easily borrowed from local libraries however.







Read Full Post »

A guest post by London Historians Member, Val Bott.

the painter and his pug by william hogarthWilliam Hogarth died 250 years ago on 26 October 1764. He spent Thursday, 24 October working on his engraving plate of The Bench at Chiswick but, too unwell to work on the 25th, he was taken to his town house in Leicester Fields while his wife remained at Chiswick. On going to bed, he was taken suddenly very ill and died a couple of hours later in the arms of his wife’s cousin, Mary Lewis, who had helped run the print business for years. He was buried at St Nicholas Church by the Thames at Chiswick, where later a fine memorial was erected with an epitaph by David Garrick.

That week a piece in the the London Evening Post commented that in Hogarth were happily united ‘the utmost force of human genius, an incomparable understanding, an inflexible integrity and a most benevolent heart. No man was better acquainted with the human passions, nor endeavoured to make them more subservient to the reformation of the world than this inimitable artist. His works will continue to be held in the highest estimation, so long as sense, genius and virtue shall remain among us’.

Hogarth's tomb in St Nicholas Churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth’s tomb in St Nicholas churchyard, Chiswick, on the banks of the Thames.

Hogarth was a Londoner through and through, depicting daily life in clear reality and with affection, while mocking those of whom he disapproved. A brilliant engraver and a fine self-taught painter, he produced memorable images which we love today. With an astute business sense he sold his prints by subscription and protected them from piracy through his successful campaign for the first artists’ Copyright Act. He was a generous man and his love for animals and children is evident in his work. A philanthropist, he was a governor of the Foundling Hospital, he oversaw the wet-nurses who cared for foundling babies in Chiswick and, with his wife Jane, fostered foundling children. When financially secure he acquired his much-loved second home a Chiswick which is now a museum about the Hogarths, their Chiswick friends and neighbours, and other past residents of the house. The walls are hung with his most important prints, depicting London as the backdrop to his famous series of modern moral subjects, but also at the theatre, in the crowd at Southwark Fair, in the streets in Four Times of Day.

Hogarth's House

Hogarth’s House.

The William Hogarth Trust has worked with Hogarth’s House this year to produce a new exhibition, The Small Self, which has just opened. Supported by a grant from the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, it was devised by trustees Chrissy Blake and Jason Bowyer, who sent out sixty foot-square artists’ boards with an invitation to use these to submit a self portrait in homage to Hogarth. Fifty-three self-portraits have arrived, from the Trust’s patron, Sir Peter Blake, Royal Academicians William Bowyer, Anthony Green, Ken Howard and Humphrey Ocean, cartoonists Steve Bell and Martin Rowson, designers Cath Kidston and Toni Marshall, writers such as Jaqueline Wilson and Mike McCartney, performers including Harry Hill, Holly Johnson, Jim Moir and Joanna Lumley and members of the New English Art Club. This exhibition is testimony to a strong continuing enthusiasm for Hogarth; a beautiful little catalogue illustrating them all is on sale at £6.95.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Hall and Bowyer.

Self portraits. Sir Peter Blake and Jason Bowyer.

On the evening of 25 October the Trust and the Friends of St Nicholas will be mounting a special commemoration at Chiswick’s St Nicholas Church. Ars Eloquentiae will perform music Hogarth would have known (with some audience participation!) and Rosalind Knight, Lars Tharp and others will be reading 18th century texts to celebrate Hogarth’s life and work. Admission is £10, refreshments will be available and there will be a souvenir programme on sale. The event is supported by the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust, Hounslow Council and Fleet Tutors.

On 22 October The Cartoon Museum opens Hogarth’s London, a must for London Historians. It draws together a range of prints (including a number on loan from Hogarth’s House) to celebrate his love of the capital city and to reveal the vitality and the suffering of life here 250 years ago.

The Small Self continues until 11 January 2015, 12 noon to 17.00 Tuesday to Sunday, admission free.
Hogarth’s London continues until 18 January 2015, 10.30 to 17.30 Monday to Saturday, Sunday 12 noon to 17.30, at 35 Little Russell St, London WC1A 2HH. There is an admission charge – full details at cartoonmuseum.org.

Read Full Post »

In about an hour from now, Hogarth’s House will once again be open to the public.  Wonderful timing for the great man’s birthday this Thursday. After a total refurbishment that dragged on for three years because of serious fire damage in October 2009, the 1715 Grade 1 listed country retreat opens its doors to us at last. Hogarth lived in the place with his wife Jane from 1749 until his death in 1764. In those days the building was surrounded by fields. Today it goes largely unnoticed as thousands of cars zoom past each day on the A4 dual-carriageway.

Although William Hogarth extended the house to include a studio, its main function was a country retreat: he continued to do most of his work and business at his town house in what is now Leicester Square. The Hogarths made their home available as a wet nursery for foundlings left at Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital, an institution which Hogarth actively supported. [I haven’t got this quite right: please read Val Bott’s detailed comment]

The refurbishment project has been led by Val Bott, a distinguished local historian and museum consultant who is a trustee of the William Hogarth Trust. We’re proud also to have Val as a member of London Historians. She has been in charge of the decor and all new display materials which are substantial compared to previously. There is a section which features other owners and residents of the house over the years, something which was not really addressed prior to the restoration.

Here is a picture I took last Tuesday, when everywhere was a maelstrom of last-minute preparations. I shall visit during this week and add some interior shots.

hogarth's house chiswick

9 November: And here they are. Mostly uncaptioned, I think they’re kind of self-explanatory to give you a flavour of the place and also to encourage you to go yourself and have a look! My overall impression: fabulous!

hogarth house chiswick

Here is Hogarth's statue (2001) in Chiswick High Road and the sculptor's maquette on which it was based. I love marrying up statues and their maquettes!

hogarth house chiswick

hogarth house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswickhogarth's house chiswick

There are some more pictures on the History Today web site, here.

The house is free to visit and will be open every day except Mondays, from noon to 5pm. The best way to visit the house is to take the Tube to Turnham Green. Walk up Turnham Green Terrace and check out the 2001 statue of Hogarth and his pug on Chiswick High Road. From there it’s a 10-15 minute walk (best to use Devonshire Road, I reckon) to the house.

Read Full Post »

This week’s local history topic for Hayes FM radio station was Chiswick House. Located between the Hogarth Roundabout and Chiswick Bridge, it was for almost 200 years in the possession of the Dukes of Devonshire until surplus to requirements, they offloaded it early last century, leaving local authorities scratching their heads as to what to do with it. Demolition was a very real option. In the 1950s, the Georgian Group and others pressed for restoration to its original specification. More recently, the gardens have benefitted from a National Lottery-supported £10 million overhaul  by the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, founded in 2005 for the purpose. The project was completed last October.

chiswick house

So now this architecturally highly-significant early-Georgian villa, run by English Heritage, is as close as can be to its condition when built in 1729. The house was designed by its owner the 3rd Earl of Burlington. His protégé William Kent – who later became a prodigious architect in his own right – did the interiors and also developed the entire garden.  This was towards the end of a period when for over fifty years the English Baroque of Wren, Hawkmoor, Vanbrugh, Gibbs and the like held sway. Burlington, who had taken no fewer than three Grand Tours to Italy, was determined to change all this, starting with Chiswick. Imbued with the ideas of Palladio (and many others, it must be emphasised), he determined that Chiswick would be as near as a classical Roman villa as it was possible to be. The structure of the building, its dome, its rooms, its decoration, fittings and furniture are highly symmetrical, ordered, proportioned. It was to represent the Augustan Age, to Burlington and his circle the high water-mark of Western civilisation and its purpose to influence a new Augustan age in England. More than a building, it was also a showcase of English intellectualism.

The interior of Chiswick House deeply interesting and lavish. The ground floor is low ceilinged and functional. The action is mostly on the first floor. The central space – the Tribunal – is a domed octagon. Each of its eight faces displays large paintings – portraits of Charles I and II and other Stuart dynasty worthies. More on that shortly. Extending outwards from the tribunal are the other rooms, all of which are shaped strictly on classical forms. The decor and furnishings are likewise based on classical themes, most notably nautical: shells, fish scales, Venus and other sea gods. Statues, stone vases, portrain busts, pedestals and guilded chairs and tables abound.

Chiswick House Tribunal

The Tribunal. © English Heritage Photo Library

CHISWICK HOUSE, London. Interior view. View looking up into the dome of the Tribunal or Saloon showing the chandelier.

The Tribunal. © Jeremy Young. Source: English Heritage Photo Library.

Chiswick House The Gallery

The Gallery. © English Heritage Photo Library

Chiswick House Table

A plethora of nautical motifs. © English Heritage Photo Library

The whole building is dripping with classical symbolism. But what’s this? Thistle motifs. Burlington was ostensibly a good Whig who supported the nascent Hanoverian dynasty. But many of his friends were Catholic intellectuals and writers (e.g. Alexander Pope). It is known that Burlington impoverished himself with his building schemes and it has been a long-standing mystery as to how he kept going. Recent scholarship – ongoing – suggests that he was being supported financially by the Young Pretender and that their relationship much closer than hitherto suspected. So Burlington was playing a dangerous game. So his villa was both an homage to Augustus and to the Stuarts, whom he secretly considered the rightful monarchs of Britain. (UPDATE: 6/7/11: I haven’t got this part right at all. Please see Ricky Pound’s clarification in the comments).

The “Architect Earl” had two daughters. The elder pre-deceased him and the younger married the 4th Duke of Devonshire who consequently inherited the estate. The Duke’s daughter-in-law, the famous Georgiana Spencer, was one of the big personalities of her age. She was beautiful,  vivacious, the leading hostess of her day. She loved parties, having affairs, heavy gambling and politics. Chiswick House was very dear to her and there was nothing she liked more than throwing garden parties for leading Whig politicians of the day. When she died with the equivalent in today’s money of £3 million of gambling debts, her husband – the 5th Duke – was said to have muttered: “Is that all?”

Through most of the 19th Century the Devonshires rented Chiswick House out. For some decades around the turn of the 20th Century, it was adapted as a hospital for the mentally ill before the family eventually sold it off.

You may be interested in architecture, history, interiors, painting, sculpture or gardening. Or perhaps you just appreciate the finer things in life. Whatever the case, Chiswick House will do it for you.


QI Fact: William Hogarth was a close neighbour of Burlington’s in Chiswick. Although he was obliged to get on with the Earl (they were both closely involved in the Foundling Hospital, for example), he despised neo-classicism as being un-English and therefore unpatriotic. He hated Kent. When invited to paint the figures in a picture of Chiswick House, he impishly depicted them looking away from the building.

Chiswick House Lambert and Hogarth

View of Chiswick House by George Lambert and William Hogarth. © English Heritage Photo Library

QI Fact ii: Joseph Paxton, creator of the Crystal Palace was talent spotted by the 6th Duke of Devonshire while working in the gardens at Chiswick.


Chiswick House Gardens are open year round and entrance is free. The house is open from March until October on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday. Entrance is £5.50, very reasonable in comparison with many similar attractions.

Special thanks to Ricky Pound of English Heritage for generously sharing his massive knowledge on the house and its contents and on Burlington and Kent.

Chiswick House and Gardens
Chiswick House and Gardens Trust
English Heritage
English Heritage Prints
Wikipedia is sound on Chiswick House, Lord Burlington, William Kent and Georgiana Cavendish (Spencer)

Read Full Post »

A good day for West London. First, the 157th Boat Race showing off our beloved neck of the woods to the world at large. Helicopter’s eye view of wonderful bridges and Thameside sites. It’s surprising how much greenery still exists in these built up areas. The Boat Race organisers no doubt kindly arranged the start for 17:00 hours so many of us could get home sharpish in time from the 31st West London Local History Conference.

The conference is sponsored by local history societies:
Barnes & Mortlake
Brentford & Chiswick
Fulham & Hammersmith
West Middlesex Family History Society

This year’s theme was Scientists & Innovators in West London History. The near sell-out audience were treated to talks on a variety of absorbing topics: Dr John Dee, an Elizabethan scientist from Mortlake, the remnants of whose library give us one of the biggest bodies of source evidence for Western natural philosophy in the late 16C;  George III’s scientific instruments from Kew (now in the Science Museum); the history of Price’s, the biggest candle manufacturer in the world during the Victorian era, which finally shut down as recently as 2000, although its brand name lives on; the potions, powders, pharmaceuticals and popular grooming products of McLeans and Beechams of the Great West Road (now part of GlaxoSmithKline); innovative 18C nursery gardeners in West London who nurtured pineapples, pears and elm trees.

west london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conferencewest london history conference

My favourite was Price’s candles. We take candles for granted, today they are fripperies. But not so long ago, except for open hearth fires, they were our only source of artificial light. Beeswax candles we all know about. But it was interesting to discover how the 19C chemists at Price’s went to enormous lengths to find alternatives to the stinky and cheaper tallow-based models. Now I feel educated on the topic.

At just £8 for a full day’s worth of fascinating local history, this is terrific value. We congratulate the organisers for a fabulous conference and look forward to next year.

Read Full Post »

william hogarth

Self portrait, 1745, Tate Britain

Today we celebrate William Hogarth‘s 313th birthday. He was a Londoner and a patriot, a loving husband and a passionate humanitarian. And, of course, a fabulous dauber.

I first became interested in Hogarth about ten years ago, for parochial reasons, really. An unveiling of his 300th anniversary statue was to take place a few hundred yards from where I worked in Chiswick. This was in 2001, some several years after the actual anniversary. I clearly remember waiting patiently in the freezing rain with hundreds of other Hogarth fans, including Ian Hislop and David Hockney, for the Mayor of Hounslow to do the honours. His Worship was so late that it fell on Hislop to do the deed, as I recall it, but at least the rain let up for the key moment. The fundraising for this monument had been so successful that the organising committee were able to add Hogarth’s famous pug to the commission.

Most of us are familiar with Hogarth’ s work – The Rake’s Progress,  Marriage à-la-mode and so on. What makes them so enjoyable is their cartoonic qualities, indeed their strip cartoonic qualities in many cases. You can admire a landscape or seascape or still life or formal portrait. But you can love a Hogarth.  Gin Lane or The Hay Wain? It’s no contest.

william hogarth ian  hislop

2001: Ian Hislop does the honours.

Of course, as an artisan painter and engraver, he did plenty of jobbing work too – commissioned portraits, book illustrations, etc. But his pictures are ultimately all about people, always the people, many of them grotesque characactures, yet brimming with humanity. They tell us as much about 18th century life as thousands of words from so many historians.

What I really admire about Hogarth is that outside of his talent, he was a practical businessman and energetic philanthropist, and one has to wonder where he found the time, given his prodigious output.

Two of his innovations stand out.

Hogarth became frustrated at copies of his engravings being sold in their thousands with not a penny accruing to him. So he did something about it. It was largely thanks to his lobbying that Parliament, in 1734, passed the Engraving Copyright Act, informally known as Hogarth’s Act. This protected all makers of original engravings from being ripped off. It was eventually superceded by the Copyright Act of 1911.  How many writers, artists, musicians and film makers today realise the debt they owe to Hogarth? 

Hogarth was a keen supporter of the establishment of Thomas Coram’s Foundling Hospital which was a care home for abandoned children. Indeed he and his wife Jane, who were childless, ran a wet nursery in support of the hospital from their home in Chiswick. Hogarth donated some paintings to the hospital and came up with the idea of encouraging other artists to do the same and then holding fund-raisers by inviting rich people to come and see the paintings. So it can reasonably be argued that Hogarth was the inventor of the public art gallery. Although I knew there were Hogarths at the Foundling Museum, I only learned about all of this a matter of weeks ago when I visited the museum for the first time.

Tonight we will be toasting Hogarth’s memory in gin. I’m not sure he would have approved, but the proceeds will all go towards restoring his old house on the south side of the A4 in Chiswick. It will reopen to the public next summer. We’ll keep you informed.

So, Cheers! Happy Birthday, Bill. Can I call you Bill?

Read Full Post »

Photo of Hogarth's House, which is on the A4 r...

Image via Wikipedia

This evening I attended my first meeting of my local society, the Brentford and Chiswick Local History Society. They very kindly and unexpectedly invited me to talk briefly about London Historians. This was rather unnerving, public speaking not being my strong suit, but I think I survived on sheer enthusiasm and the pint of London Pride I had just consumed.

Turnout was strong, at least 50 I estimate, lovely people all. Tonight the talk was by John Collins, Hogarth’s House Outreach Officer, who told us how the renovation was coming along and that this building – dear to the heart of many local denizens – would be reopening late next Spring, with a following wind. I have visited the house several times over the years and would recommend it to all Londoners with the slightest interest in British art and the 18th century generally. Chiswick House is right next door, as is the famous Griffin Brewery of Fullers. What’s not to like?

All in all, a thoroughly positive experience, and I only regret not joining my local society earlier. I’d encourage you to do likewise. Check out our local groups page here. London Historians will give a discount on our membership equivalent to your local society subscription up to a value of £10. That’s right, we’ll pay for your local society sub!

Read Full Post »